Papers and Speeches

Corporate R&D at RIT

“RIT will become the unofficial research and development division for American technology-based companies.”

Rationale: This may be another opportunity for RIT to become a “Category of One” university. American technology-based companies can no longer afford to do much in-house research and development(R&D) because of competition from abroad. Universities could do much of this R&D at lower cost, but companies find that longer university R&D timelines and conflicts over intellectual property ownership frequently make them difficult partners to deal with. RIT’s applied Masters’ programs, its significant laboratory facilities, and its many faculty with corporate experience, coupled with a more flexible intellectual property policy, might make the institution an attractive R&D partner for many companies. The potential availability of the graduate student as a pre-trained employee of the company (upon completion of the Masters degree) would be another attraction.

How might this work?: Hypothetical example to stimulate discussion - RIT might offer (and advertise) a simple R&D contract at an attractive price. For example, RIT could offer to undertake a one-year R&D project defined by a company for $100,000 plus the cost of expendable supplies and any permanent equipment needed for the research. The R&D work would be done by a Master’s student as his/her thesis project under the supervision of a faculty member. Participation by the faculty member and graduate student would be completely voluntary. Included in the fee would be compensation for the faculty member and graduate student, RIT overhead, and an up-front payment to RIT for relinquishing any intellectual property rights (to be split between RIT and the faculty member and graduate student). Projects would be accepted only if qualified, interested, and willing faculty and graduate students could be identified.

Questions:

Is this a good idea?
If so, should staff be included somehow?
How do we ensure that the results of research can be published?
Will this kind of R&D be accepted and credited in promotion and tenure decisions?
Is there an existing entity at RIT that could organize and lead such a program?

 

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